Even with the best camera, a flat image of a gorgeous vista or beautiful home just doesn’t do it justice. A 360-degree camera is great for when you want to show the full picture and allow viewers to pan and zoom anywhere in the image. For our money, the Insta360 ONE offers a great balance of 4K video shooting, digital image stabilization, and intuitive stitching software. Since 360 cameras are still a relatively niche market, the models available are highly competitive with one another, but we felt that the Insta360 ONE will match most people’s needs.
Since there’s a wide variety of special features and operating system compatibility, take a look through our Top 5 360 camera reviews to find which one works best for you.
If you’re looking for a 360-degree camera with image quality high enough to post on any social media channel, then the Insta360 ONE might be the one for you. While its nifty accessories are all sold separately, this camera is capable of some pretty serious upgrades.
Top 5 360 Degree Cameras
|Insta360 ONE||4K||128 GB||Check Price|
|Ricoh Theta V||4K||19 GB||Check Price|
|Garmin Virb 360||4K||Up to 128 GB||Check Price|
|GoPro Fusion||5.2 K||Up to 128 GB||Check Price|
|Samsung Gear 360||3840×1920||Up to 256 GB||Check Price|
1. Overall Best 360 Degree Camera
The Insta360 ONE offers a smooth 360 capture for 24 MP photos and 4K video with a great stabilization feature that will be especially helpful for anyone just getting started out with 360-degree video.
There are lots of different ways to shoot with this camera, which is what made it stick out as our top pick. While it’s not WiFi enabled, you can plug it directly into your phone via the USB charging port to live-stream 360 video to your friends via most social media platforms, which might be a useful feature if real time playback is important to you.
It’s Bluetooth enabled, so you can control it remotely, and the “bullet time” feature can be cool because it lets you slow down the action while filming, or you can shoot in Tiny Planet mode, which is nice if you want a spherical end image.
We liked that the Insta360 ONE is compatible with lots of different mounts, which could help you if you need it to integrate with other brands. You can upgrade this camera significantly over time with options like the invisible selfie stick or the waterproof housing, but keep in mind these are all sold separately.
While there are pro cameras out there with technically better visual quality or durability, the Insta360 did well in that category, and stitching and editing on the app was a breeze. You can even extract stills from the 360 and pair them together for multiple views.
Overall, the Insta360 is a great little camera that lets you get 360 photos and videos to your audience quickly and easily.
Pros and Cons
- Upgrade Features Available
- Easy Editing
- No WiFi
- Not the Most Rugged
2. Best Quick-Capture 360 Degree Camera
Ricoh Theta V
If you tried out the Ricoh Theta S, the new V model has significantly better editing software, plus it’s kept its ability to take high-quality 4K video and 14-megapixel stills. We liked this camera for its quick capture speeds when taking stills and its ease in transferring your images and videos over to your phone.
The Theta V has a neat wireless adapter built in, so you can view anything stored on its internal memory directly on an external screen while using the camera like a remote, which might be a nice feature if you plan to show video on other people’s devices. The internal memory is only 19 GB, so you need to transfer your data fairly regularly.
This camera uses Low Energy Bluetooth to stay connected to your phone, or you can use the WiFi option, but for 360-degree videos you’ll probably want to plug it directly into your computer anyway.
The audio quality on this camera is a significant step up from other models we reviewed, so it might be a good pick for you if you shoot a lot of live performances or events where hearing every note or word is key.
We wish that the Theta V had a removable SD card, and like other 360-degree cameras, you have to buy stuff like waterproof housing separately. Overall, if quick capture and transfer along with high-quality image and video are most important to you, this is a great pick.
Pros and Cons
- Smooth Stitching
- Great Audio Quality
- Bluetooth and WiFi Enabled
- Wireless Adapter (Use Camera Like Remote)
- No SD Card
- Accessories Sold Separately.
3. Best Rugged Use 360-Degree Camera
Garmin Virb 360
There’s a reason why Garmin has international name recognition, and they definitely brought a strong durability game to the Virb 360. If you plan to use your 360-degree camera mostly for physically demanding shooting and filming, you might want to look into a Garmin.
While most of the other models we reviewed can be upgraded to include waterproofing and extra-strength lenses, we liked that the Virb 360 had those built in. It can shoot for up to an hour on a single charge, and while you’ll have to purchase an SD card for it, if you get a 128 GB you can store about 4 or 5 hours of video.
We liked the voice control features on the Virb 360, since if you’re biking or rafting you probably don’t want to fidget with buttons to record the key moments. It also has a pretty cool augmented reality overlay that you can add during the editing process, so your audience can see the temperature and wind speeds when you landed that awesome jump on your skateboard, for example.
The stabilization features on the Virb 360 are also quite good, which is useful for on-the-go video. It includes a tripod, which is fantastic and we wish more 360 degree cameras would follow suit.
While it captures stills, this camera is really meant for video. It’s also going to take a while to process your videos on the desktop app because of all the extra features included during image capture.
While the ease of editing isn’t the highest scoring of all that we reviewed, the Garmin is just plain durable. If you want a sturdy 360 camera, especially for sports filming, this is worth a serious look.
Pros and Cons
- Great Image Stabilization
- Augmented Reality Overlays
- Tripod Included
- Slow Editing Software
4. Best 360-Degree Camera for Editing Pros
If you have significant photo editing experience and a PC that can handle 4k video and high-quality software like Adobe AfterAffects, then you can use the GoPro Fusion to produce some really fantastic videos using the included software, Fusion Studio.
This one requires some digital design chops, so keep in mind that you will need to meet the system requirements on your phone (at least iPhone 6) and PC (at least Windows 10 and significant memory) to use the editing software to its full potential.
That said, we really liked all of the options available on the GoPro, like slow motion, 5.2k-to-1080p video editing, and an “invisible” tripod. You can shoot some astonishing 5.2K video, which just isn’t available yet in most other models. It’s waterproof, though you’ll see the stitching lines in post-production.
This camera comes with a Fusion Grip, which is basically a selfie stick and tripod combo, but you have to buy two high-end SD cards separately, as these are what you use to edit the “front” and “back” images together in Fusion Studio.
It’s compatible with the most recent Apple and Android devices, which means you can play around with OverCapture. The stabilization on the Fusion is impressive, and it has voice control capabilities which are both nice features if you plan on rugged use.
At the end of the day, the intense editing experience might be too much if you want to edit and share your photos and videos on the fly.
Pros and Cons
- 5.2K Video
- Fusion Grip Included
- Voice Control
- Advanced System Requirements
- Editing Videos Uses Lots of Memory
- SD Cards Sold Separately
5. The Best Budget Option
Samsung Gear 360
If you’re not totally on board with the whole 360-degree camera thing, you can dip your toe in the world of immersive video with the Samsung Gear 360. While it’s a pretty basic model as far as video and audio go, it has everything you need to create surround video for a VR headset or to upload on social media.
Obviously, it’s a Samsung, so there’s no Apple compatibility here. If you have a newer-model Galaxy, you’ll be able to pair it with the Samsung Gear to view the photos and videos as you’re shooting, though of course you could just use it with no preview screen and wait to edit on your PC.
We liked that the Gear 360 comes with its own tripod, so you can use it pretty much straight out of the box. It doesn’t have quite the 4k video capacity of the other models that we reviewed, but it’s pretty close and offers video and audio quality that’s good enough for most social media channels.
You need to buy your own SD card, but the Gear 360 can accommodate up to 256 GB. It’s splash and dust resistant, so it’s probably safe to bring it with you on various adventures but we definitely don’t recommend taking it underwater or dropping it in a mud puddle.
Overall, it lacks some of the sophisticated editing capabilities or durable filming features that we liked on other models but if you’re looking for a strong budget option with respectable video quality and stitching ability, this is the one to go with.
Pros and Cons
- Splash and Dust Resistant
- Included Tripod
- Compatible with Galaxy S6 and Newer
- One-Button Operation
- Not Apple Compatible
- Basic Model
What Can a 360 Degree Camera Do?
Every 360-degree camera works in essentially the same way: it combines multiple images into a united whole that can be panned through by the viewer. The models we reviewed all shoot in 4k video, too, so the images you’re taking will be top-notch in addition to providing a full surround viewing experience.
While 360-degree video really just entered the market a few years ago, it’s fairly standardized now to where a PC user can scroll through the image using arrows on the screen while a mobile user just tilts the phone to explore the image.
There are three main components of a 360-degree camera to consider:
The capture feature is the photo-taking part, and this is much like a regular camera, only you’re taking multiple images at once.
Imagine that you wanted to stand on top of a hill and get a picture of the whole vista all the way around you. With a traditional camera, you might snap a photo while facing north, south, east, and west, so that you could show people each picture and they could get an idea of the view you enjoyed.
With a 360-degree camera, multiple camera lenses are integrated into a single unit. You can capture the whole view from the top of the hill, around a concert hall, or anywhere else you want to give the full picture.
Since the camera is still essentially taking separate shots that need to be joined together to lend the immersive experiences, the next step is called stitching.
There are a massive number of photo editing software out there that is capable of stitching, and some models even come with a free app or included software to handle the stitching. If you’re already a photographer with a favorite editing software, then you might want to go for a model that’s compatible with what you already use.
Finally, playback is the user-experience of your camera. 360-degree playback is pretty common at this point, so Vimeo, Facebook, YouTube, and more will all support it and its easy to use on mobile platforms, too.
If you’re uploading 360-degree videos, you might want to include a short tutorial for your viewers on how to watch them. There’s generally an arrow-control function on browsers and a tilt-control on mobile, but it’s pretty intuitive to get used to.
How is a 360 Degree Camera Better?
To put it bluntly: 360-degree is kind of the future of video. While it’s still a bit of a novelty at this point, there is a strong future for 360-video both in marketing and in the creative world.
For straight-up, high-quality 4k and better video, most brands bothering to launch a 360-degree camera haven’t skimped in the visual department. If you’re only looking to get one video camera, keep in mind that some models let you shoot standard video along with the 360-degree.
They’re compatible with a Virtual Reality headset, which has way more potential than most people give it credit for. Just read this heartwarming story about a world-traveler who was able to share his international trip with his bedridden mother using a VR headset.
There are some rookie mistakes to overcome when using a 360-degree camera, like leaving it on continuous record or getting your arm in the first few seconds of video. Unless you’re using a rugged model for sports or adventure filming, we recommend using a 360-degree camera for those extra-special shots.
What About Editing?
Since your camera is essentially taking multiple photos that need to be pieced together, at the very least you need to preview your shot of the Taj Mahal before you gleefully share it to Instagram or YouTube for your friends to be envious of.
The best 360-degree cameras are either compatible with high-end software like Adobe Creative Suite or offer proprietary editing software with all kinds of fancy features, like cutting stills out of your 360-degree video, overlaying augmented reality screens, or converting 4k video into 1080p video so you can view the same footage in regular and 360-degree video.
If you have a more powerful PC, you should be able to do some pretty cool stuff with the photo editing, but even lower-end laptops can handle a lot of the camera models we reviewed here.
That’s if you want to sit at your PC and produce the sleekest, best-looking video product possible. Sometimes, on the other hand, speed is essential, and you don’t want to hassle with a transfer.
That’s when it’s useful to have a camera that pairs easily with your smart phone. Most 360-degree cameras come with their own app, or sometimes you can find third-party compatible apps for editing and sharing.
This is a nice feature if you are on the go and want to share photos and video directly to social media from your phone. Keep in mind that 360-degree photo and video capability tend to be a feature of more recent smart phone and tablet models, like the Samsung Galaxy 6 Edge and newer or the iPhone 6 and newer.
Every camera is different, so pay careful attention to the compatibility requirements. You don’t want to get your new 360-degree camera all set up just to realize that the accompanying app isn’t compatible with your phone or the file size of the 4K video bogs down your old PC too much.
What Can I Use a 360-Degree Camera For?
360-degree video is gaining traction on all social media channels, and it’s becoming an expected facet of blogging, rather than just a nifty gimmick.
Here are some niches where a 360-degree camera is an absolute must:
- Travel Vlogging – If you want to draw viewers in with your coverage of exotic locations, then a 360-degree camera can really step up your game. Give your viewers a full view while sitting in a canoe or from the inside of an ancient stone ruin so your audience experiences almost as much as you do.
- Product Description – You can significantly increase the wow-factor of your product marketing by allowing your customers to view all angles of a product from the comfort of their couch. You can use a 360-degree camera to create a virtual showroom that’s accessible anywhere, which is great for everything from handmade accessories to refurbished classic cars.
- Event Coverage – Let’s be real – it’s kind of boring just to watch a flat view of a concert stage, but recording an event with a 360-degree camera lets your viewers see the show just like you do.
- Real Estate – High quality photos can dramatically increase the selling time of a home. Using a 360-degree camera in every room can allow home seekers to investigate every nook and cranny of the home you have for sale without ever travelling to it.
- Geotagging – Google Street View is the most famous for this, but providing a 360-degree view of the surrounding area is increasingly a priority for companies providing directions and reviews of various locations.
- Lifestyle Vlogging – If you really want to give your audience an immersive view of your whole life, you might want to try a 360-degree camera. Your viewers can tilt or scroll to see everything in your surroundings, whether it’s your Saturday-morning farmer’s market trip or your awesome disc golf course in your backyard.
There are way more applications for a 360-camera than this, but these are some of the fields that are rapidly restructuring around the ability to offer easy 360-degree video.
While we ultimately like the Insta360 ONE the best for overall ease of use along with editing features, the relative novelty of the 360-degree camera market means that several models have been able to find their own niche.
Now that you know all of the options available when using these cameras, you can evaluate what you need it for the most. Are you looking for a budget-friendly model? A can-do sports camera?
Whatever your adventure, you should be able to find the best 360-degree camera for you.